Background Family-activated medical emergency teams (MET) have the potential to improve the timely recognition of clinical deterioration and reduce preventable adverse events. Adoption of family-activated METs is hindered by concerns that the calls may substantially increase MET workload. We aimed to develop a reliable process for family activated METs and to evaluate its effect on MET call rate and subsequent transfer to the intensive care unit (ICU).
Methods The setting was our free-standing children's hospital. We partnered with families to develop and test an educational intervention for clinicians and families, an informational poster in each patient room and a redesigned process with hospital operators who handle MET calls. We tracked our primary outcome of count of family-activated MET calls on a statistical process control chart. Additionally, we determined the association between family-activated versus clinician-activated MET and transfer to the ICU. Finally, we compared the reason for MET activation between family calls and a 2:1 matched sample of clinician calls.
Results Over our 6-year study period, we had a total of 83 family-activated MET calls. Families made an average of 1.2 calls per month, which represented 2.9% of all MET calls. Children with family-activated METs were transferred to the ICU less commonly than those with clinician MET calls (24% vs 60%, p<0.001). Families, like clinicians, most commonly called MET for concerns of clinical deterioration. Families also identified lack of response from clinicians and a dismissive interaction between team and family as reasons.
Conclusions Family MET activations were uncommon and not a burden on responders. These calls recognised clinical deterioration and communication failures. Family activated METs should be tested and implemented in hospitals that care for children.
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